It is strange how some days stick in your memory right through your life. I will always remember my first few days in foster care with a mixture of sadness and puzzlement. When Mum had to go into hospital I was told I was going to a foster family "for a few weeks". Neither of these things I was told was true, or at least not true in the mind of a 14 year old boy.
My new Foster Mum and Dad didn't have any children so to me they were not a proper family at all. Looking back over 40 years later I still think it was a bit strange that the first time I ever met my Foster Parents was when I arrived at their front door with my social-worker in tow. I had been waiting around all day for all the arrangements to be sorted out - the biggest delay was caused by the social worker wanting both adults to be there when I arrived and my Foster Dad not wanting to lose a days pay.
My bedroom was fine. It was clean and warm and there was a decent desk there where I supposed to do my school work in the evening. That was a good start but when we went back downstairs I noticed something very curious. The lounge was at the front of the house and it contained a large and very ornate sideboard, the television and two single arm-chairs. That's right when I first arrived there wasn't a chair for me to sit on!
The dining room at the back of the house had a table with four chairs and the four of us (me, 2 Foster Parents and the Social Worker) sat there talking for what seemed like ages. I kept expecting her to say something to my Foster Parents about needing to buy another comfortable chair for the lounge but she didn't and I was too shy to say anything.
When the Social Worker left it was all very difficult. I didn't know what the house rules were or even what I was to call my Foster Parents. It didn't take long before I realised that the whole fostering project was my Foster Mother's idea and that my Foster Dad had no interest in any part of what was going on.
That first evening was horrible and very unfair on me. After tea I helped wash up like I always used to do when I was living with my Mum but then I had no idea what I was supposed to do. The two of them sat in the lounge watching the TV and I didn't know if I was allowed to go in to sit with them or not and anyway if I was allowed to go in where would I sit? On the floor like a dog would?
So I went upstairs and read a book in my bedroom feeling rather lonely and abandoned.
About three days later a different (more senior?) Social Worker came round to see how I was getting on. We sat in her car so my Foster Mother couldn't hear what I was saying. I tried to be brave but I was so sad and disappointed that I wasn't living like a member of a family at all and that living there reminded me of a horrible Bed and Breakfast place that Mum and I had once stayed at in Cromer. I don't know what was said or when but within 48 hours another comfortable chair had arrived and my Foster Mother started trying a bit harder to make me feel welcome.